Named for the wooden castle built by a son of William the Conqueror near the Tyne River in 1080, the British City of Novum Castellum, (now Newcastle upon Tyne) is rich in history, having seen everyone from the likes of William Wallace (courtesy of King Edward I) to William the Lion (who was imprisoned there in the late 1100’s). Newcastle thrived in the late 1500’s as a coal production center. Later, in the first half of the 1600’s, about a third of the residents were killed by the plague, and even King Charles spent some time in prison there in the mid 1600’s as a guest of the Scots. But by the late 1700’s, it was a great printing center, and also a producer of flint glass. Closer to our time, the first art gallery opened in Newcastle in 1904, a gallery that still exists today.
And it is in this formerly walled city, the former northern fortress of England during the middle ages battles with the Scots, that saw 3 likely auction sale records set on September 11th, courtesy of a diminutive 16 centimeters tall R. Lalique Cire Perdue Glass Vase found in a box in a house during a routine evaluation of the estate of a deceased individual. The 1922 vase featured a design of two voluptuous winged women with outstretched arms in relief on the exterior.
Normally, we think of R. Lalique Cire Perdues as one-of-a-kind creations, because due to the method of manufacture, the mold is broken and cannot be re-used. However, an original artistic model can be used to make another mold, and while another vase made this way starting with the same model will not be identical, it can be real close. For the Rene Lalique Vase Deux Figures Femmes Ailees, there were 4 such vases recorded as having been made of the same design. And the one of current interest was the first, having been marked on the underside “1/4” (one of four) in addition to “415-22” (the mold number and the year 1922) along with the typical wheel cut R. Lalique signature.
The appearance of the vase generated worldwide interest, having been appropriately cataloged by the auction house, and having been listed well in advance of the sale in the Worldwide Rene Lalique Auction pages at RLalique.com. The auction house, which wiped away the green ring evidence on the interior that the vase had been used to hold flowers (heaven forefend on both counts :), and reported that the vase was in generally very good condition save minor nicks, properly put a conservative sales estimate of £20,000 to £30,000 on the vase, an estimate which would have to be rounded by the addition of another zero to match the roughly tenfold final price :).
Worldwide bidding interest, a packed house and full U.k. and international telephone lines saw extended bidding lasting several minutes leading to a final bid price of £280,000, which along with the buyers premium of 19.5% or £54,600, made the total sales price £334,600 or about $555,000 US dollars figuring an exchange rate in actual practice of about 1.66 British Pounds per Dollar for the American buyer.
The likely records are as follows: For the locals, according to the auction house, this vase represents the highest price paid at auction for a decorative art object in the northeast of England this century. For the R.Lalique enthusiasts, this is likely not only the highest price ever paid at auction for any Lalique Cire Perdue Vase, but also the highest price paid at auction for any Rene Lalique Vase.
Our take on the price is simple. The market for R. Lalique, especially but not only for high-end vases is hot. For Lalique’s Cire Perdue, it has also been very strong. Also, we have seen from experience that most Cire Perdues that appear at auction have significant condition issues. This vase reportedly did not. And not much Cire Perdue appears with nude women, which are an ever-popular decorative motif from the period, making this vase extremely desirable on all fronts in the current market.
Buyers apparently looked past the fact that other Cire Perdue vases of this same design exist, and grabbed at the opportunity when it presented itself. Think about R. Lalique Cire Perdue this way: in any given year there are limited chances to buy R. Lalique Cire Perdue Vases at auction, usually a few at most. If you want to obtain Cire Perdue vases, you have to go after what appears. In a sense, you do not choose the Cire Perdue, but by its appearance it chooses you. In a rising market, Cire Perdues usually lead the way, and this week in this market was no exception. Add to that the condition of this example, the design, and the good job done by the auction house, and you have on many levels a Cire Perdue Trifecta and another great day for the great Rene Lalique.
For additional information on Lalique Cire Perdues, check out the Lalique Cire Perdue section of the R. Lalique Bio at RLalique.com.
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